SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – They arrived on Sunday, were on the sidelines for a friendly against Deportivo Saprissa on Monday, but only returned to training on Tuesday – a two-session day that, in terms of practices, marked the beginning of the team’s second week in Costa Rica. Veteran midfielder David Guzmán was with them, too, but for Jeremy Ebobisse and Marvin Loría, their returns to MLS camp capped a month to remember. Each rejoined the Timbers having accrued their first senior camps as internationals.
“At that moment, I felt great,” Loría, Costa Rica’s starting right winger on Feb. 2 against the United States, said in Spanish, remembering the moment he found out he would start for his country. “I was so happy to be in the senior team and thankful for the opportunity, and also for the chance to show what I can do when I get in the team.”
That shined through early in Loría’s time at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California. In the eighth minute, combination play through Costa Rica’s midfield found Loría on the right with space to cut inside. When no United States players stepped to him, last season’s Timbers 2 standout unleashed a long-range shot, marking his first senior-level attempt on goal.
“After they got me the ball, and after I made a little cut into midfield, no defender came to me. So, I decided to take a chance,” he remembers, mirroring a movement he constantly executed last year in the United Soccer League. “Unfortunately, (the shot) ended up off target but, truly, it was a nice little moment to remember.”
Loría’s place in Costa Rica’s starting XI likely came as a surprise to most, especially since the 21-year-old has yet to log a Major League Soccer minute. One person who wasn’t surprised, though, was Ebobisse. Having split time in 2018 between MLS and USL, the U.S. international was fully exposed to Loría’s skills. And that exposure left little doubt in Ebobisse’s mind as to Loría’s fit at the senior level.
“He had a really exciting year with T2, last year,” Ebobisse said, “and some moments with [Portland’s] first team, too, in Open Cup, that as a friend and teammate, I wanted to see him build off of.
“I think It was fully deserved that he get called into Costa Rica, and obviously, he performed well enough in camp that the coach had enough faith starting him in a tough game, away from home in the U.S. “
That last note may be the most important to remember about Ebobisse’s national team time, too. You’re only handed your first camp once, and in the honor, there’s cause to stop and remember the moment. But it’s the moments leading up to. that, behind the scenes in the exercises of national team camps, which speak loudest of a player’s value.
Somewhere, over the days and weeks before Gregg Berhalter’s (United States) and Gustavo Matosas’ (Costa Rica) selections, Ebobisse’s and Loría’s work stood out. They did enough to prove that they belonged in their national team XIs, with Ebobisse starting at left wing for the U.S. against Panama on Jan. 27.
Performances within the actual friendlies will draw the most attention, because that is what meets the public eye. But the most informative performance of the night may have been the easiest: Merely walking out with 10 other starters.
“Games will come and go,” Ebobisse explains, “and how I do and how I compete with other guys will be down to that particular game. But all I have to do is make sure that I’m ready, to make sure that if I’m called upon for any set of games, for whatever kind of role, that I go out there and I’m ready to perform.”
As was the case with Loría, Ebobisse’s role in his country’s latest camp surprised some. After all, he only saw 449 minutes in 2018’s regular-season, topping that mark with 479 minutes in the playoffs, alone. That may hint at the new, elevated standards in MLS, where merely getting minutes with a high-finishing team can be seen as an accomplishment.
To the extent that is true, though, it didn’t make Loría’s international debut any less surprising to the player himself.
“Of course, of course it was a little strange,” Loría said, when asked about his first cap coming before his first MLS minute. “I was playing in the U.S. I was playing for an MLS team. But all the same, I knew that I could be being watched at any time. And in the training that let up to the game, I was competing with other MLS players and established Ticos.
“[The coaches] told me that I would have a real chance, and thanks to God, I took it.”
With the caps, though, come new expectations, even if such considerations aren’t necessarily part of a player’s day-to-day world. From the outside, the label of “international” will stay with Ebobisse and Loría forever. From the inside, though, recognition from federations only reinforced the process leads to those levels.
“You’re only as good as your last performance is a cliché that gets over said,” Ebobisse explains, “but is very true. I’m where I’m at right now based on the way last season ended, but if I change my approach, then hypothetically I can find myself at the beginning of where last season started.
“Now, whether it’s in games or in practice, there’s new expectations out of me. I’m no longer an unknown quantity. I have to be able to manage that as well and find a way to keep elevating my game.”